French to send fact finding mission to New Caledonia to examine possible future

·2-min read

The Law Commission of the French Senate has announced that a fact-finding mission will travel to New Caledonia, a French colony in the South Pacific, to investigate the future institutional role of the island and its relationship with France and other French overseas territories.

The trip will take place between 22 June and 29 June and a report on the visit is due to be published at the end of July.

The mission will be headed by François-Noël Buffet (Les Républicains LR,) President of the Law Commission, who will meet with “all the people concerned,” according to a commission press release. Next week, the Senate will hold a series of hearings with legal experts.

Buffet will be joined by Philippe Bas (LR,) Jean-Pierre Sueur (Socialists) and the president of the centrist group Hervé Marseille.

The team will examine to what extend leaders in Paris and New Caledonia’s capital Noeméa have lived up to agreements on extended autonomy.

In particular, it will look at the Matignon Agreements (signed in 1988 between loyalists who wanted to keep New Caledonia as a part of the French Republic, and separatists, who did not,) and the Noeméa Accord (signed in 1998 and aimed at granting increased political power to New Caledonia and its original population, the Kanaks, over a twenty-year transition period.)

On 12 December, New Caledonia voted to stay part of France in the third and final referendum of the Nouméa Accord.

Turnout was at a record low, as Kanak separatists of the FLNKS had called on New Caledonians to boycott the vote. They refused to recognize the outcome.

The new Minister for Overseas Territories, Yaël Braun-Pivet, has the arduous task to reopen negotiations between separatists and non-separatists and try and build the institutional future of the archipelago.

The territory’s new role must be defined ahead of a referendum scheduled for June 2023 which will focus on the new political organization of New Caledonia.

New Caledonia is of strategic importance for France in the face of growing Chinese attempts to gain influence in the region. It could in the coming years become a flashpoint in Franco-Chinese rivalry in the Pacific.

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